Survey: Almost half of school principals stressed and exhausted at work

The Finnish Rectors' Association says there must be a more clearly defined path for principals to get mental help health if they feel close to burn-out.

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File photo of tables & chairs in a classroom / Credit: iStock

Almost half of Finnish school principals are stressed, exhausted or at risk of exhaustion at work.

That’s the findings of a survey revealed Tuesday morning by the Finnish Rectors’ Association SureFire, which finds that 11% of principals are exhausted and 33% had a clear risk of burn-out.

“At the moment we are not so well aware about the facts behind those reasons why principals are so stressed, so there’s a lot of need for more research and information about this” says Antti Ikonen, Chairman of SureFire.

“What we know is that it’s a bit worrying that so many principals, every 10th or 12th person, was feeling like they’re totally under a huge amount of stress, and at least every third was feeling that the stress is quite much” he tells News Now Finland.

Challenges like implementing a new curriculum or dealing with administrative burdens were some possible factors in stress for principals in primary schools, as well as lower secondary and upper secondary school.

At present there’s no clear path for principals who feel exhausted or stressed to follow and get appropriate help.

SureFire’s Antti Ikonen says that local healthcare organisations, as well as workplace-based healthcare, both have a role to play.

“When principals are stressed it also has consequences for teachers, and consequences for children” he explains.

“So that’s why we are a bit worried that there are so many principals in schools where the conditions should be better.”

Survey says: most principals are happy at work 

Despite the stressful situation that many principals report in this first-of-its-kind study, more than 55% of respondents said they were happy with their jobs.

The survey revealed that those educators see their work as meaningful, with lots of positive challenges and opportunities for professional development. The principals reported that they have support in their work, and have a good work-life balance.

The study was carried out through a traditional questionnaire as well as measuring heart rate and sleep patterns of the school principals. It’s part of a bigger international project looking into health and wellbeing of school leaders.